Meet our college students
The main focus of Big Big World is education. Education is the key for long-term success and independence. Without an education, an alarming number of orphaned children in Vietnam are fated for poverty, human trafficking, or worse.
Big Big World Project has promised the children of Phan Thiet Children’s Center a college education if they can complete high school and pass the entrance exams. Currently we are subsidizing tuition for four amazing young adults. The kids are very conscious of the effort and giving on our end, and they really strive to be worthy recipients of your generosity. In fact, 100% of the high school grads in the last three years are in college.
At 8 years old, Hang was the sole bread winner for her family (a sick grandmother and a younger brother). She did odd jobs like sell lottery tickets to earn money for food for her family. She had never attended school. The authorities stepped in and determined that her grandmother was no longer able to care for the children, and she and her brother were taken to the orphanage.
After a couple of years, her brother ran away. Hang stayed at the orphanage. She started first grade three years older than the rest of the kids in her class because she had never attended school, but she is very intelligent and she bloomed. When we met her, she was 16 years old. She is one of the primary reasons we came back and eventually formed Big Big World. She is that special. She is responsible, serious, and a wonderful care taker and role model for the younger children. She was a really good student in high school, always one of the highest scoring kids at the orphanage.
In her senior year in high school, Hang’s grades plummeted and she was depressed. We learned that her grandmother was extremely ill and was often hungry with no way of earning money. Hang had decided that she had no choice but to leave school and travel back to her village to take care of her grandmother. She was quite determined. To us, this was devastating news. Here was an extremely bright young woman, a hard worker, a human being who was accountable, responsible, and lived with integrity and honor. We had no doubt that she would pass the required exams and make it into college.
We talked to her about the choice she was making. We could not persuade her to stay because her grandmother’s immediate needs were so urgent. We decided to sponsor Hang’s grandmother as well, so that Hang could have the peace of mind she needed to stay in school. We sent an additional $35 per month to Hang, and she bought food and medicine and sent it to her grandmother on the bus each month. She did that every month for three years. Hang remained in high school, graduated, passed the college entrance exams, and is attending college in Ho Chi Minh City. She took very good care of her grandmother until she passed away in 2013.
Hang started her third year in college in the fall of 2014. She continues to thrive with our support and with her own strength of character and grace.
BBW proudly sponsors Hang’s tuition and her living expenses, approximately $2000 per year.
Directly across the street from the orphanage is a police station. For all of his young life, Phap watched the policemen in their uniforms, patrolling and being a strong presence in the neighborhood. He has had no other dream since we have known him except to be a policeman.
When he was a senior in high school, he applied to get in to the police force. He was rejected because he cannot list a father or grandfather on his application. This was a profound reality check for Phap. He was devastated. He did everything he was supposed to do, but was rejected for a set of circumstances he had no control over.
He started college in a program for auto mechanics and studied for a year. He did well, but the longing for a career in the police force was still very strong. He got some encouraging news from an aunt that made him think he might be able to get into the police training, but he was told he would be released from the government’s care if he changed his course of study. They would no longer support him in any way. He wrote a letter to BBW explaining his situation, and asked if we would be willing to sponsor him fully until he entered the police school. We believe in him so we agreed. (and the government portion of the tuition is so small, it was not much of a difference in what we already sponsored). He studied independently to take the entrance exam for the police force and was really excited.
In the final days leading up to the exam, he was once again rejected because of he is unable to prove his paternity. After a long and passionate fight to live his dream, Phap has decided that he will pursue engineering instead.
BBW proudly sponsors Phap’s education and living expenses, about $2000 per year.
Phap makes us wonder- if he were born into a family of average means and had average opportunities, what could he accomplish? As a child born to poverty and to a mother who is mentally disabled and unable to care for him, Phap was raised since he was little in the orphanage. With extremely limited opportunities, this amazing young man has excelled in every area of his life. In high school, he was class president, captain of the soccer team, and earned good grades. As a resident of the orphanage, he was a big brother and positive male role model to lots of little kids who look up to him and love him. As a son, he cares for his mother and honors her. He visits at every opportunity and makes sure she has what she needs. He is a deep and soulful person who takes nothing for granted.
Hao (or Anthony, as he likes to be called) is brilliant and resourceful. He is the only English-speaking child at the center, and he actually taught himself the language listening to American music.
Hao was born into a very stressful situation. His mother and her family wanted to terminate her pregnancy with Hao. His father, in his one and only act of paternal protection, would not allow it and took the mother away until she gave birth. The couple split immediately after Hao was born, and both parents left, destination unknown to this day. Hao was sent to live with an aunt, whom he refers to as grandmother. Six happy years passed. They were very poor, but the aunt loved Hao and was kind to him. Hao describes how his aunt built them a bamboo house to live in, and how she sacrificed her own necessities to give him what he needed.
At age 7, his beloved aunt’s health was failing and he was sent to another aunt. She did not like Hao and expelled him from her home when he was 13 years old. This is how he came to live in the center. The aunt who cared for him when he was little visited him when she could, and then she died a couple of years later. He misses her terribly.
If children graduate from high school but do not go to college, they must leave the center immediately after graduation and fend for themselves. The odds of these children having a normal life are dismal. They often become victims of human trafficking. Hao made sure he did not graduate until he knew there was a plan in place. He failed the high school exam twice and had to repeat grade 12 twice. BBW has provided the security he needed to move on and risk leaving the orphanage. We don’t judge because we don’t know what he has been through. Based on the intensity of his self-preservation instincts, we think he has been through a lot. Hao is very attached to the orphanage and the people who live and work there.
Hao is a very generous person. He is giving and thoughtful, and he is incredibly artistic. He possesses so many natural gifts. We are all very attached to him and are determined to help him get to the finish line.
Currently, he is an English major in a college in Ho Chi Minh City. He started his fourth year at the school in the fall of 2014. His English skills continue to improve, and he gains more confidence with each successful year in school.
BBW proudly sponsors Hao’s tuition and living expenses, approximately $2000 per year.
Phung earned a degree in Banking and Finance in fall 2014. We can’t wait to see what she can accomplish in her life — and we know she will do whatever it is she sets her mind to. She has already beaten incredible odds by earning her degree.
Phung is a sweet and very bright young lady. She is a quiet but powerful presence at the orphanage and at her college. Her story is so sad, but you would not know it by the beautiful smile she always has on her face.
When she was a young child, her father died. Her mother remarried to a man who already had two sons. Phung lived in an abusive situation for some time before the mother and stepfather decided that they could not afford to have all of the children. They gave Phung up to the orphanage. How she has managed to move forward with grace and joy is truly an impressive feat of her spirit.
Phung has worked so very hard to change the course of her life, and she is a very deserving. Phung is a very good role model for the smaller children back at the center, and she takes that seriously. Everyone looks forward to her visits during holidays. She always has time for a hug, and she is considered a friend to everyone. She takes care of the details in her life and she wastes no opportunity. She is mature, grateful for the gifts in her life, and has a happy disposition that brightens our lives.
Trung has written his own bio, which BBW proudly publishes here.
My mother was born in a remote area of Dong Nai Province. My mother had been marrid once and had one son (my half brother). My half brother passed away when he was 10 years old. My mom was deeply depressed about her son’s death. Time went by, she met my father and asked him for a baby and that was me.
After giving birth, my mother broke off a connection with my father because my father already had his own family. Then my mother moved to Binh Thuan Province. Four years later, my father visited my mom, and my mom asked for a second baby because she was afraid that I would be lonely if she passed away. Three months after giving birth, my mother passed away because of cancer. At that time, I was 5 years old and my brother was 3 months old.
We were raised by our aunt for a while, then she could not afford to raise us and asked my uncle to raise me. My brother was given for adoption. I lived at my uncle’s house for three years, and then moved to my aunt’s house again and stayed there for another three years.
When I was 6th grade, I was moved to my relative;s house in Binh Thuan Province, and then moved from one house to another to work for them. When I was 9th grade, I could not afford school and supposed to quit school to go to work for my living, but my teacher did not want me to stop school. He brought me to his house and raised me during 9th grade, but then he could not afford to raise me. He and one of the government officers then discussed my situation and sent me to Tan An – Ham Tan Orphanage.
This new place has changed my life. This place gave me a chance to go to school, to complete my high school and now study at University. The Center always created favorable conditions for me to go to school, but they can not afford to pay all expenses in Saigon, so I have to do some part-time jobs to survive in Saigon.
Thanks for BBW, Mr. Chuc and Ms. Thao’s concerns, now I have a better life that is more stable. Thank you very much to all members of BBW, Mr. Chuc, Ms. Thao for your generosity. Special thanks to my far-away moms. I am very grateful to you all for your help.
Big Son has written his own bio, which BBW proudly publishes here.
I was born and grew up in a very poor family in the north of Vietnam. I lived with my older brother Vu, younger sister Trang, mother Sau and father Chien. My older brother had to go to the jungle to get wood for heat and unluckily, he had an accident and died. When he died, my family did not have money to buy him a coffin, but put him in a sleeping mat and buried him.
I was encouraged by my friends to sneak out the house for four days and then returned home. I was beaten nearly to death and bound with a rope and not allowed to eat. When my father went out for a while, my mother released me, and I was beaten again and again when he was back. He said if I ever ran away again, I should never return. Every time being beaten by my father, I could not control myself and ran away. One day, I ran away and got into a bus without knowing that the bus went to the south (Binh Thuan Province). I was wandering in the streets and put in the Ham Tan Social Sponsor Center. The Center gave me a name and sent me to school.
Mr. Graziano went to the Center to adopt a little boy, Hieu. When he saw me carrying Hieu around and behaving well with the kids, he liked me and wanted to adopt me as a far-away son. I was thrilled with happiness because from now on, I have a far-away father. I told Mr. Graziano my story. When he knew that I did not know my birth date (the center used Jan 1 as my birth date for my birth certificate), he asked me if I wanted to use his birth date to be mine, and it is May 14. In the year 2006, I had my first birthday celebration and was so happy about it.
Thank you very much my far-away father; thank you Ms.Thao to be a link between my far-away father and me; thank you BBW in general and Bonnie and Cynthia in particular who have helped me during my difficult time.
I am now pursuing to be a good cook and desiring to find my own family when I have time and money.